Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Family Time Weekend


Shannon and Brian have a tradition of an early Thanksgiving family gathering at their house. This year was even earlier than normal because of their plans to head to Orlando, Florida over the Thanksgiving holiday with all 6 kids to get some use out of their 1 year passes to Universal Studios. The weekend of November 14-15 was the chosen weekend.

We started off the weekend on Friday night by attending a High School presentation of Beauty and the Beast. Our Grand Daughter, Hannah had a part in the play. Her boyfriend Kyle also had a starring role playing the character, Gaston. They both played their roles with enthusiasm and the entire production was quite good and very enjoyable.

Hannah is the red magic carpet in this picture:



I attended the play with Kim, my mother and father in law, Phyllis and Richie, Brian’s mom, Linda and our son Mark.


They had a full house for both nights of the performance and made a nice donation to a local education based charity. Well done Ozark High School Drama.

I love going to those plays because it reminds me of going to see my daughter Shannon perform when she was at the same High School. The cool thing is the same drama teacher is still there doing an outstanding job with the kids.

Here are a couple of shots of Phyllis and Richie meeting their new great grand daughter Amelia for the first time.



Saturday was the big family dinner attended by over 30 people. It was a beautiful day, so we played in the yard before we had dinner.


Our son Michael was the only one missing. He was having issues with his outage at the power plant back in Arkansas. Audrey did bring Conner and Cameron up. I really enjoyed my time with all 8 of the grand kids. Here is Cameron:


Watch out for those tickle snakes! My time with Will, Connor and Cameron.


We have so much fun together.

Dinner is served! There was a bunch of food.


It was really a fun day and I know I ate way too much food. Here is a shot of our son Mark holding Amelia and our grand daughter Isabella.


Thanks to Shannon and Brian for hosting the event.

On Sunday, we had the baptism of Amelia. We all headed to their church and watched the ceremony. We then had a reception and then back to their house for leftovers and more fun playing with the kids.


Here is Hannah’s boyfriend Kyle posing for pictures. He is very talented and also a great guy.


Here is a shot of Amelia in her Baptism gown:


It was a very full weekend. We drove back and forth to the ranch each night. The drive is about an hour each way. We needed to be at the ranch anyway because of some stuff going on out there.

Family time is so important to me. It seems that for years these gatherings were either missed or shortened because of our busy schedules. It is so nice to now have the time to focus on them and maximize the experience. It looks like much of our travel time this coming year will be focused on family events and that is just fine with us. We did miss our family this past year and we look forward to seeing everyone this next year.

It has been a month and a half since we arrived in Missouri. Wow, had that time gone fast. Now we have to get focused on many projects that we would like to complete before Christmas and our departure to head south. I do miss being on the road, but spending time with family makes staying in one place just fine. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Dual Sport Motorcycle Riding


Life continues to move along while we are staying at the ranch. For those not familiar with the ranch, this place is an active business. We have 10 owners including Kim and I. All of us are into riding and racing off-road motorcycles. Most have been involved in the sport for 40 years or more. We put on events at the ranch and we also have open riding. To ride at the ranch you have to be a member. If you want to know more, you can visit: hardwoodhillsranch.com

One of the aspects I really enjoy about staying at the ranch is meeting riders from all around the area that come to ride. Most come to ride our 30+ miles of single-track trails. I have been riding a couple of days each week to try to get some exercise. I am working on another post to describe what we do. I will include some GoPro footage to give you an up-close and personal view of the very technical trails and show you why it is such a great workout.

Another form of riding that is popular with some riders is Dual Sport riding. This is where we take an off road capable, but street legal motorcycle and go on an adventure ride on the miles of dirt and gravel roads in this part of Missouri. This form of riding is becoming very popular all over the country. You can go to any gathering of motorcycles these days and see the many motorcycles with luggage mounted on the back. Many riders have moved away from the big street machines, like Harley Davidsons to brands like BMW that make these Dual sport machines.

I think there are three classes of Dual sport machines:

1. Big – Usually over 700cc engines. More street capable, but usually with large knob tires to do some off-pavement riding. Not suited for trails at all. These bikes weigh between 400 and 600 lbs. Favorite brands include BMW, KTM and Yamaha.

2. Middle size – Engine size between 500 and 700 CC. Not as comfortable on long paved sections of roads, but more capable on unpaved. Much lighter with weights between 320 to 400 lbs. Not great on single track trails, but good riders can get through a trail. Most popular brands include: KTM, Kawasaki, Suzuki.

3. Small – This class is for any dirt oriented bike that has been made street legal either by the owner or the factory. Engine size is below 500 cc and weights are between 250 and 350 lbs. These bikes can go anywhere. They are very uncomfortable on long street rides, but get them off road and watch the fun begin. The traditional dirt manufactures shine in this category: KTM, Husqvarna, Yamaha, Honda

Image result for images of KTM 350 EXC

I own a motorcycle the fits in the middle size and small classifications. I have ridden for miles and miles on the dirt roads that surround the ranch. It is not uncommon for us to ride for more than 100 miles in a day of exploring on our dual sports. My favorite kinds of rides have almost no pavement in them.

This past weekend, we had some members come to the ranch from Kansas City. They went for a long ride on Saturday and had so much fun they wanted to do it again on Sunday. They invited me to join them. We headed out at 10 AM. The weather was a perfect sunny day. We rode for about 70 miles and stopped to look at some cool rock formations along the country road.


We had a Husky 650, a Kawasaki KLR 650 and my Suzuki DR650. We rode for a while and followed a GPS track, but then I took the lead and we just decided to freestyle it. We generally knew the direction we wanted to go and we just tried to stay off pavement. We headed to a local town and had a good lunch. Lunch always seems to be part of a dual sporting day. I got in contact with Daniel (the son of one of the other land owners at the ranch) and he lead us back. We stopped off at a creek crossing to admire the crystal clear water.



One of the best things about doing a dual sport adventure is not knowing what will be around the next corner. We saw a large buck at one stop. Later I was leading and there was a miniature mule standing in the road. It would not move for us, so I had a rather involved conversation with him and then he got bored and moved along. It turned out to be a very enjoyable day.

If you used to ride motorcycles and feel like getting back into riding, I would suggest dual sporting as a way to enjoy riding and adventuring without the traffic.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Life Well Lived


On November 4, I had a couple of appointments in Springfield. The first was my annual check up with my cardiologist. I had a heart attack 5 years ago. In many ways, I see the heart attack as a blessing in disguise. That incident turned up the heat on my plans to get retired as early as possible, and get on to living our dreams. The check up was non-eventful and the doctor said I was doing great and asked if there was anything she could do for me. I simply said, “You already did”. They saved my life by putting a stint in my heart, which opened up a 100% blockage and gave me the ability to travel and explore the way I have done this past year.

I then met with my financial advisor. He and his assistant wanted to hear about our adventures. He told me that hearing stories like that is why he enjoys his job.  He told me that all is looking good and that he would keep up with my blog to live vicariously through me until his time to explore will come.

I look at these people as part of our team. They take care of the uninteresting, but very important things that allow me to stay focused on the interesting and important parts of my life, like spending time with my grand kids. Here is a shot of Amelia that Shannon took the other day:

Amelia with rabbit

After my appointments yesterday, I went over to visit Shannon and Brian and the kids. I got to hold Amelia for about 2 hours. She just slept in my arms. It is so awesome to have time to do the interesting and important, like that.

Here is a picture of Amelia in the beautiful blanket that my Mom sent her. It may be the softest blanket, I have ever felt. Shannon put this on Facebook, but I am not sure if Mom and Dad will see it there.

Amelia with Blanket

On Friday night (the day before Halloween), we all went to dinner at Olive Garden. The kids got in costume for a later trick or treating outing at Bass Pro Shops. It was a crazy dinner, but they did not throw us out.

Olive Garden Dinner

Jacob was there also, but he does not allow pictures.

While I was at Bass Pro, I made a purchase with a gift card that was given to me at my retirement party by a dear friend Jeff. I have been wanting a fly tying kit for a long time and now I have it. As I get more time to do some tying, I will write about it. This is exactly what I need, another hobby. I think the key to an enjoyable retirement is to find things that you like to do or always wanted to do and do them. I can honestly say, I have not been bored a single second since I retired.

Life at the ranch has been going well. I have been doing some riding and starting to get back into riding shape. I have also been doing something that I really enjoy. I have been working with some beginners teaching them what I can about riding technique and hopefully showing them how to enjoy riding more. Riding at the ranch is very difficult for most new riders. It is very rocky and that creates difficulty. Many experienced riders don’t like riding here because of the difficulty. With the proper technique and bike set up it can be a blast. We like to say, if you can ride here, you can ride anywhere.

It is hard to believe that we have been back at the ranch for a month already. I have accomplished a number of things, but I have an endless list of to-do’s. I clearly will not get them all done while we are here this time. It will be just two more months before we head south for the winter.

Thanks to Shannon for all of the pictures in this post. I have not been taking pictures as I should. I am still sorting the 10,000 pictures I took on our trip west.

“Opportunity” is a strange word. It is much like “Potential”. Neither is worth a darn unless you embrace them and take some risk and exploit them. You biggest risk is failure, but accomplishment without the risk of failure is no accomplishment at all.

How is that for a little philosophy to get you thinking.